De l’art si je veux is an interactive work of hypermedia art created by artist Nicolas Clauss in collaboration with a group of young people from Le Mans (France), as part of an artistic and educational project. The participants, ages eleven to sixteen, were invited to react to certain works of contemporary art, namely those of Arman, Francis Bacon, Ben, Christian Boltanski, Maurizio Cattelan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marcel Duchamp, Edvard Munch and Daniel Spoerri (Clauss, 2004). In the nine individual pieces that comprise the work, Clauss reexamines the artists’ production based on the participants’ reactions.
In one of the pieces, the artist revisits works by the Chapman brothers and by Maurizio Cattelan. We hear the voice of the student who gathered the necessary material for the composition, and who says he particularly likes the gore and tragicomic manner in which the artists deal with their subject matter. The piece includes transmedia adaptations of The Ninth Hour (a hyperrealist sculpture showing Pope John Paul the Second crushed by a meteorite) and of Love lasts forever (a sculpture showing the skeletons of a mule, a dog, a cat and a rooster one on top of the other), by Maurizio Cattelan (Designboom, 2004), as well as plastic soldiers with the Chapman brothers’ heads (Whitecube). Other sequences call to mind Arbeit McFries, a miniature created by the Chapman brothers, in which we see a number of bodies in more or less advanced stages of decay strewn in front of a rundown industrial building identified as a McDonald’s restaurant.
Another piece is dedicated to Marcel Duchamp’s contribution to the art world. In this case, Nicolas Clauss and his young collaborators assembled a hypermedia ready-made, which includes titles and images taken from Duchamp’s work. Among these, we find the famous disfiguration of the Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), Étant données : 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage (1946-1966), Fontaine (1917), Porte-bouteilles (1914), Roue de bicyclette (1913), Torture morte (1959)… By clicking on the surface of the image, the user can hear the students’ very diverse reactions to the works in question, which range from “ingenious” to “rotten”.
The piece based on Basquiat’s aesthetic style (graffiti and drawings) is composed of three windows in which a man constantly repeats the same movements. He wears a mask with features resembling those of the character from In Italian (drawing on paper, 1983). Under each window, a pistol follows the cursor’s movement and, under the two left-hand windows, we see pages covered in graffiti, apparently taken from a notebook. When the user moves the cursor towards the upper right-hand corner of the screen, a sequence of enigmatic words appears. There are taken from an untitled piece created in 1983: “POSTOAKOES / REST IN PEACE WHO TRUST?” Other elements are borrowed from Tabac (1984): the cigarette, the crown (a recurring symbol used by Basquiat to represent himself or to refer to characters he admires), the swirl, the words “nervous system”. The soundtrack is comprised of continuously repeated sounds.
The piece dealing with Munch’s Scream is simple yet compelling. Upon entering the module, the user sees, seated next to Munch’s painting, a man who holds his head like the character in the original piece. When the user clicks on the figure, other characters appear in his place, and each has a tormented expression on his or her face. A red and black background recalls the motif and the character in Munch’s painting. By clicking on it, the user hears the participants’ comments.
The piece about Arman’s work comprises a multitude of images representing two young men whose brief and jerky movements are continuously repeated. This recalls one of the common motifs of the artist’s work, i.e. the accumulation of objects. Clauss borrows images from Beyrouth Liban (Moreau et Bizos, 2006) and from Colère de violon (Moreau, 1999). The soundtrack mixes, among other things, grating sounds and a discourse on new realism played backwards. The latter is read by the same male voice that can be heard in the digital piece on Basquiat.
The digital painting about Francis Bacon is a reworking of the Study for Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, a woman who was a friend of the artist, and also a painter. The image appears in three copies presented as a triptych (a format often used by the painter over the course of his career). Rawsthorne’s deformed features have been replaced by the faces of three children, whose images become distorted when the user moves his cursor over the image. We also hear the impressions of the students having participated in the creation of this version of the painting, which is considered “monstrous” compared to Bacon’s other portraits.
In the section entitled “memo”, Clauss’ young collaborators created and invented a life for Boris Lanchitanski, a character whose name is an anagram of Christian Boltanski. Each participant is photographed and recorded while presenting an object associated with the character. This recalls some of Boltanski’s autobiographical projects, such as Vitrine de référence (1971), and Les Archives de C.B. 1965-1988 (1989).
In the piece dedicated to the work of Benjamin Vaultier, aka Ben, we see slogans such as “Art is stupid,” or “Anybody can make art,” written white on black (in the manner of Ben’s own slogans, which can now be found on pencil cases and all sorts of notebooks). When the user moves his cursor over the letters, the text becomes blurred and is replaced by a new slogan. To hear the students’ impressions, the user can click on either side of the text. These concern, among other things, Ben and Duchamp’s artistic viewpoints.
A final piece revisits the art of Daniel Spoerri through the use of one of the artist’s common themes, i.e. dirty dinner plates glued to a table and hung up on a wall. This practice transfigures these commonplace objects, making them into art. In Clauss’ digital version, the user can move the kitchen tools (spoons and plates, mostly) around, with the help of his cursor. Other elements, such as cups and half full dishes appear intermittently. In some sequences, short videos are shown repeatedly in the background.
The original URL (http://www.delartsijeveux.com/) is no longer available. To view the full work, visit Internet Archive (http://web.archive.org/web/20130904160640/http://www.delartsijeveux.com/).